The Senate has passed its version of the 2007 Farm Bill, which contains a number of key provisions sought by R-CALF USA to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. livestock market. Included among these improvements are:
Affirmation of, and improvements to, mandatory country-of-origin labeling
Ban on packer ownership of livestock
Establishment of an Office of Special Counsel for Agricultural Competition to ensure proper enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act
Directive to USDA to define “undue preferences and advantage” within the Packers and Stockyards Act
Authorization for interstate shipment of state-inspected beef
Authorization of voluntary arbitration for contract growers
“We fought for more improvements but they were met with such vehement opposition from the meatpacking lobby, which included the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and were not able to be included,” said R-CALF USA Vice President/Region II Director Randy Stevenson, who also chairs the group’s marketing committee.
The two versions of the Farm Bill passed respectively by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives must now be reconciled by a conference committee in order to produce a single 2007 Farm Bill that would then be voted on by both chambers of Congress.
“Our challenge now is to keep our key competition reforms intact during the conference committee deliberations, which should take place in early 2008,” Stevenson said. “This challenge will be significant if NCBA and the rest of the packer lobby continue with their outrageous claims of industry collapse should markets become more open and more transparent as a result of these reforms.”
Stevenson also said that NCBA and the meatpacker lobby successfully stripped away support from an amendment offered by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that would have closed the loophole in the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) that allows meatpackers to circumvent the PSA’s prohibition against price control and price manipulation if a meatpacker claims it had a ‘business justification’ for its actions.
“We will continue working with Congress to close this loophole and we appreciate the Senators who tried to help us do this within the Farm Bill,” he added. “We’re pleased with our industry’s progress so far, and R-CALF is preparing to fight aggressively to keep in the final 2007 Farm Bill that which we’ve just won in the Senate.
“Our continued success will depend on the willingness of farmers and ranchers to demonstrate their support for our efforts, as this is the only way we’ll overcome the tremendous anti-competitive efforts of NCBA and its packer lobby,” Stevenson emphasized.